Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jul 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Column: Weed Between the Lines
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker


Having lived here nearly half my life, I frequent local businesses 
and want them to succeed and thrive. I'm proud to support companies 
that call Boulder home, too, - shops and stores that are part of the 
fabric of the community and who call me by my first name. Chain 
stores serve their function, but we all know a viable city needs to 
be built around a strong homegrown business community.

Cannabis stores have now been open for a year and a half, and as a 
consumer, I'm especially eager to see local businesses thrive, 
especially the ones that came onboard at the beginning and took the 
chance to operate a legitimate business for a substance illegal under 
federal law beneath a confusing labyrinth of uncertain legal, 
financial and existential challenges. I'm just not that excited to 
see marijuana business, especially in Boulder, become just another 
string of corporate stores. In this case, smaller and local is better.

I know that the city prides itself on its overlapping maze of 
regulatory rules and procedures, and in general, I'm a believer in 
regulations that promote the local welfare and protect citizens, 
business owners and employees.

I can also understand the pressure on legislators, since Amendment 64 
dictated strict timelines for rulemaking. But a close look at the 
city rules on marijuana is confusing at best. The Boulder charter 
states (6-16-1) that "the City Council intends to regulate the use, 
possession, cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana in 
a manner that is consistent with Amendment 64 and finds that the 
provisions of this chapter are directly and demonstrably related to 
the operation of marijuana establishments in a manner to minimize 
negative impacts on the community."

But the city's own regulations sometimes go beyond the state rules. 
Some seem arbitrary, others counter-intuitive and aimed at putting 
local marijuana businesses at a competitive disadvantage. A large 
percentage of Boulder citizens voted for legalization, and I'm sure 
most would agree that the city should ensure that cannabis businesses 
located here are at least allowed the chance to build their brands.

Take the city's coupon ban. This makes no sense whatsoever. 
Currently, no Boulder marijuana business can place a coupon in a 
newspaper or magazine. Any other business in the state can put a 
coupon in Boulder publications. It's a staple of local business - who 
hasn't used one? - but the ban leaves local cannabis businesses at a 
distinct disadvantage. It strains credibility to imagine what 
"negative impacts on the community" can come from a coupon? No other 
jurisdiction in the state has this, and it's reminiscent of the 
merchandise ban in the original city ordinance that was amended by 
council last year.

Another one that confuses me has to do with infused-products 
manufacturing. Ordinance 6-16-5 says that city cultivation facilities 
must be owned by the licensee. But it also requires that those 
businesses own manufacturing facilities that provide 70 percent of 
the marijuana used for infusion. The number of manufacturing 
facilities you can own in town is limited and each is restricted to 
15,000 square feet or less. Perhaps there are, but I see no reasons 
for this beyond making it almost impossible for local businesses to 
produce edible products.

Then there's the so-called "Sunset Rule," which allows an existing 
medical business to become a co-located retail and medical store and 
which expires on Dec. 31, 2015. This arbitrary deadline needs to be 
permanently removed. I know the city added this initially to help 
limit cannabis businesses, but unless it's rescinded, it could work 
in the opposite way. Some medical businesses haven't been able to 
convert yet, for whatever reasons, and they should still have the 
same chance that any beginning business gets.

It also is concerning that a recreational business license (6-16-3) 
is not transferable or assignable to anybody else. Which basically 
means that if you sell a grow operation, you must destroy your 
product first. Talk about lessening value. And Boulder is the only 
place in the state where there is no chance for appealing a decision 
concerning rules violations. Negative impacts on the community? Or on 
cannabis businesses?

I've talked with a lot of business owners over the last couple of 
years, and those who have been successful work very hard to comply 
with the often bewildering rules and regs of both the city and the 
state. Marijuana is legal in Boulder, and it's likely to stay that 
way. Cannabis businesses in Boulder pay local, state and federal 
taxes, and the city collects sales-tax revenue. Boulder should extend 
to them the same basic courtesies it offers any other business to be 
able to grow and prosper.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado 
cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom